Life can be difficult and painful. There are moments when it feels like we are being assaulted from all sides, with difficulties and challenges hurled at us time and time again.
In trying to get through it all, it can seem like we’re just slowly crawling through mud, trying to pull ourselves out and get ahead. Every single person will experience it at some point in their life.
That is why it is so valuable to understand effective ways to help the people around you when you are in a position to make a positive impact.
Helping other people is not only good for that person, but it’s good for your own soul. That being said, it’s a challenging world and there are some difficult people out there.
Kindness and compassion aren’t necessarily soft or gentle. It’s important that you ensure your own health and well-being in the process of trying to uplift another person.
Helping other people in their hour of need can be challenging and confusing at times. That’s why it’s important to keep in mind that…
You don’t need to have all of the answers.
A person who is going through a difficult time may feel like their problems are insurmountable. Those feelings can be intense and overwhelming even in a situation that is relatively simple.
Mental illness makes that kind of situation even more difficult. Depression and anxiety are becoming more widespread, which means that not all of a person’s emotions are necessarily going to be reasonable or rational.
Sometimes, life can hand us problems that do not have clear and distinct answers. In trying to help another person, you must remember that you don’t need to have all the answers.
Some problems are so complicated that they require professional help to find answers to. Some problems should not have uninformed opinions foisted on them.
It’s okay to not have answers. You can always help guide the person in the direction of the answers they are looking for.
Presence speaks louder than hollow words.
Words mean very little, which is probably an odd thing to read in a written article.
But how many times have you heard from a person that they would always be there for you? Or even that they loved you, and then when you needed them, they were nowhere to be found?
The truth is that words are easy, and often shallow. It’s actions that speak loud and clear. People so often look for the right words to comfort someone they care about who is going through something terrible, but there are rarely good words for the worst of situations.
If you feel stuck, something as simple as, “I don’t know what to say, but do know that I’m here for you.” can be powerful. Your continued presence can offer more support and help than an encyclopedia of hollow words.
Set aside any distractions and be present with the person. It’s a powerful way to demonstrate to them that they and their problems are important to you.
Anchor the person in reality with a tangible course of action.
A person who is going through hard times will be swamped with emotions that are likely to make it hard to see through or past their pain.
Think of it like a person who is physically drowning. Are they concerned with a boat in the distance? A shoreline? The people or buildings on the shore? No. They are in the moment, focused on trying to keep themselves above the surface.
They aren’t necessarily spending their time looking past keeping their head above the water or latching onto something nearby that can keep them afloat. Panic and a drowning response make it difficult to think clearly in such a situation.
Emotional distress on dry land is much the same.
You can anchor a person back into reality by helping them find a tangible course of action to approach a problem.
That often comes down to convincing the person to talk to a relevant professional that can help them with whatever problem it is they are facing.
There is a common misconception about “suicide hotlines” that stems from people calling them suicide hotlines. Most are actually “crisis hotlines” and the operators can help in many more situations than just a person feeling suicidal. Sometimes they can connect a person with services or help that the caller didn’t know was available.
Boundaries are a necessity in trying to help another person.
There is a lot written about the importance of authenticity and closeness with other people. What tends to get brushed over far too often is the absolute need for solid boundaries.
Boundaries serve not only to protect oneself from the turmoil of other people, but they can also help guide another person in a better direction.
By having the ability to say, “What you are doing is not okay with me, and if you keep doing it, I’m stepping away.” you can spend less time worrying about another person taking advantage of you.
You are not the other person’s therapist or savior. Ultimately, a person can only truly save themselves. Everything else is just a tool, method of support, or empowerment.
Real change and uplifting come from hard work, dedication, and sacrifice. A tool is not useful if a person won’t pick it up and use it. Sometimes, the best way to guide a person into that course of action is by not putting up with repeated, toxic behavior.
Repeated is an important word. Sometimes people go through low and difficult times. They make mistakes. Bad things will happen. What truly matters is that the person is actively working to improve their situation.
And if they won’t, then your ability to reinforce your boundaries will help keep you safe and well in the process.
Avoid using the word “understand” when trying to relate.
The word “understand” is an emotionally charged statement to people who have gone through some horrible things or are presently struggling.
Invoking this word is a tricky thing, because it can build some solid bridges if you can meaningfully demonstrate that you have been in a similar position, but it can also immediately shut the other person down.
Why? Because if you say you understand someone’s pain and can’t actually show that to the other person in some way, their defensive walls are going to go up and they stop listening.
Avoid using “understand” when trying to be helpful or there for someone. You don’t need to try to relate to the person’s suffering to help them. Most of the time that will just fall short and make it harder for you to be there for them because they won’t be as open or trusting about what they are going through.
Openness is a major factor in helping others. Authenticity allows people to connect in a way that can provide inspiration and hope in dark places. Your actions demonstrate authenticity far more than your words ever can.
Act with kindness and compassion and you’ll find that you can uplift the people you touch far easier than trying to find the right words to convince someone that you understand or relate.
Whatever kindness and support you choose to offer and put into the world, do not forget to practice it with yourself. It’s tough out there for a lot of people. A thick skin and solid boundaries are two important parts of keeping yourself well and healthy if you want to help others.